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Having made it into a 12-rider breakaway, Didier made the selection on Hoosier Pass before dropping his rivals on the final short, steep climb; van Garderen stayed with Majka and defended his lead

Photo: Sirotti

JANIER ACEVEDO

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LAURENT DIDIER

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TEJAY VAN GARDEREN

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TREK - SEGAFREDO

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USA PRO CYCLING CHALLENGE

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22.08.2014 @ 23:36 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Laurent Didier (Trek) took the biggest win of his short career when he emerged as the strongest from a 12-rider breakaway in the hard stage 5 of the USA Pro Challenge. Dropping his final 3 companions on the short, steep climb inside the final 10km, he narrowly held off Janier Acevedo (Garmin) and Rob Britton (SmartStop). Tejay van Garderen (BMC) followed Rafal Majka (Tinkoff-Saxo) closely in the finale and defended his overall lead on the eve of the time trial.

 

Yesterday Jens Voigt got agonizingly close to a big stage win for Trek when he was caught less than 1km from the finish in stage 4 of the USA Pro Challenge. Today his teammate Laurent Didier made up for the disappointment when he won the final mountain stage of the race.

 

Didier was the only Trek rider in a 12-rider group that escaped after a very fast start to the wet, cold stage and clearly emerged as the strongest. Having initially dropped his companions on Hoosier Pass, he was caught by Janier Acevedo, Ben King (both Garmin) and Rob Britton on the descent but again left them behind on the final short, steep climb with less than 10km to go.

 

Inside the final kilometre, Acevedo and Britton got very close and a long sprint from the former nearly denied Didier his win. In the end, however, the Colombian ran out of metres and had to settle for second.

 

After yesterday’s sprint stage, it was time for the final mountain stage of the race in stage 5 which brought the riders over 168.1km from Woodland Park to Breckenridge. The first two big part of the stage consisted of a long gradual uphill until the riders reached the top of the Hoosier Pass just 23km from the finish. From there, it was a fast descent to the bottom of the short, steep Boreas Pass whose summit was located just 4km from them line and that final section was all downhill.

 

One rider didn’t take the start as former Danish champion Michael Mørkøv (Tinkoff-Saxo) decided to head home as he had felt bad all week. The remaining riders took the start under horrendous weather conditions, with rain and cold set to make it a tough day in the saddle.

 

Nonetheless, the stage got off to a very fast start, with several riders keen to go on the attack. A 10-rider and a 4-rider group got clear in the early part but the first significant move was made up of 8 riders who escaped after 18km of racing.

 

Tiago Machado (NetApp-Endura), Danny Summerhill (UnitedHealthCare), Eric Marcotte (SmartStop), Ty Magner (Hincapie), Dion Smith (Hincapie), Luis Romero (Jamis), Steve Fisher (Jelly Belly) and Greg Daniel (Bissel) fought hard to maintain a 15-second advantage but Optum had missed the move and were chasing valiantly. The American team tried to send a rider across but after 60km of racing, it all came back together.

 

The attacking continued and it briefly seemed that an 11-rider group had gained an advantage but they didn’t have much luck either. BMC were keeping things firmly under control until they finally allowed 12 riders to get clear.

 

Daniel Eaton (Bissell), Luis Lemus (Jamis), Scott Zwizanski (Optum), Richard Handley (Rapha), Robin Carpenter (Hincapie), Chris Butler (Hincapie), Rob Britton (Smartstop), Jai Crawford (Drapac), Jose Mendes (NetApp), Christiano Salerno (Cannondale), Ben King, Janier Acevedo (Garmin) and Laurent Didier (Trek) formed the move that finally went clear and with 100km to go, they already had an advantage of 3.30. The gap continued to increase and with 73km to go, they were 4.30 ahead after Acevedo had made it back after a mechanical.

 

BMC were now riding on the front and they kept the gap stable at around 4.30 for a long time. Meanwhile, Carpenter was dropped from the breakaway which was still 4.20 ahead with 50km to go.

 

Lemus beat Crawford and Handley in the only intermediate sprint which played no role as none of the escapees were in contention for the green jersey. As the road got steeper near the top of Hoosier Pass, BMC Increased the speed and with 30km to go, they had brought the gap down to 3.40.

 

On the steep section neat the top, the break split up, with Didier getting clear on his own. Acevedo was next while King and Britton had joined forces in a third group. Mendes was 5th, Butler 6th and Salerno 7th.

 

At the top, the escapees were 2.30 ahead and it was now clear that the stage winner would be one from the breakaway. Garmin-Sharp had been riding tempo on the steep part and whittled the group down to less than 20 riders, with Ben Hermans (BMC) being one of the riders to have been dropped, leaving just Michael Schär at Tejay van Garderen’s side.

 

On the first part of the descent, King, Acevedo and Britton joined forces and with 12km to go, they brought Didier back.

 

The quartet was now 45 seconds ahead of their nearest chasers and were working well together as they approached the bottom of Boreas Pass. As soon as the road started to ramp upwards, King made a strong attack that nobody responded to.

 

The American managed to build a 15-second advantage before Didier reacted. With Acevedo glued to his wheel, the Luxembourger started to ride a bit hard and this caused Britton to drop off.

 

Didier and Acevedo caught King and as soon as he had recovered from his effort, he made his next attack. This time no one could respond and he quickly got a big advantage.

 

Didier crested the summit as the lone leader while Britton and Acevedo had joined forces in a quest to get back to the Luxembourger. Passing the flamme rouge, they were just 5 seconds behind and with Britton doing a massive job, they were just metres behind with 300m to go.

 

Acevedo launched a long sprint and quickly approached the lone Luxembourger. However, he ran out of metres and had to settle for second.

 

On the final climb, the peloton split to pieces and it was Sergei Tvetcov (Jelly Belly), Tejay van Garderen (BMC) and Rafal Majka (Tinkoff-Saxo) that emerged as the strongest. Speeding down towards Breckenridge, they managed to gain 5 seconds on Tom Danielson (Garmin-Sharp) and Matthew Busche (Trek) while the rest of the GC contenders were even further back.

 

With that result, van Garderen defended his 20-second lead over Majka and he will take that comfortable advantage into tomorrow’s decisive mountain time trial in Vail. At 16.1km, it is a long gradual uphill test that will determine the overall winner of the race.

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